4 suspended after police kicked burning bystander

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A bystander is kicked by police officers, as he lies on the ground near flames, following an automobile chase that ended in a fiery crash in Jersey City, N.J.

A bystander is kicked by police officers, as he lies on the ground near flames, following an automobile chase that ended in a fiery crash in Jersey City, N.J. (Photo: AP)

JERSEY CITY, N.J. (AP) — Four Jersey City police officers, including a lieutenant with 24 years' experience, have been suspended indefinitely in the wake of an auto chase and fiery crash in which a video showed police kicking and dragging a bystander, the city's mayor announced Monday.

The June 4 video showed Miguel Feliz exiting his car before being kicked by the officers. The officers had been chasing a different man whose car resembled one used in a shooting several days earlier.

Feliz, of West New York, several miles from Jersey City, underwent surgery for burns last week and remains hospitalized.

All four officers are suspended indefinitely without pay, Mayor Steven Fulop said Monday. He deferred questions about a criminal probe into the incident to the Hudson County prosecutor's office, which is conducting the investigation.

"We have a strong track record here of supporting our police officers and acting swiftly with discipline when appropriate," Fulop said. "We're taking swift actions within our ability to do so, and residents should know we want to have a balance between resident concerns and policing concerns, and we feel have that balance here."

Suspended were: Lieutenant Keith Ludwig and Officers M.D. Khan, Erik Kosinski and Francisco Rodriguez.

Public Safety Director James Shea said Ludwig, a 24-year veteran of the force, has an "excellent" record, and that the four officers, one of whom has been on the force for a year, "are average police officers." He didn't say if any had had previous disciplinary violations.

Shea wouldn't say if any of the suspended officers were the ones seen on video kicking Feliz.

"We repeat our call for a full and impartial investigation into this incident," Carmine Disbrow, president of the Jersey City Police Officers Benevolent Association, said in an email. "Unfortunately Mayor Fulop continues to indicate that he has no intention of allowing this to be the case."

Feliz wasn't the only person injured in the chase. Suspect Leo Pinkston suffered a leg injury after officers fired shots at his moving vehicle. They had initially stopped the car because it matched the description of a car that had been used in a shooting several nights earlier, Shea said.

Shea said at least 20 officers were involved in some aspect of the response to the high-speed chase, which lasted for several miles. Several protocols were violated, he said, including the length of the chase, the firing of shots at a moving vehicle and the placing of a car as a roadblock without approval from a supervisor.

Ludwig "was the supervisor of the officers who started the chase, he was involved from the beginning and he allowed it to go on long after the point where, under the attorney general's guidelines, he should have called it off," Shea said.

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